Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Agenda

Talking about monetary union and Cyprus this WEEK

  • In Brussels on Monday to make the case for defence spending (Photo: Nato)

Senior EU politicians will gather for a conference in Brussels Tuesday on how to reach economic and monetary union (EMU) amid strong divisions between member states about the speed and order of the successive steps.

The meeting, attended by the head of the European Commission, the head of the European Parliament's economic affairs committee and the head of the Eurogroup, is to discuss how to reach "genuine" EMU.

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Most EU talk on the matter is agreed that there needs to a banking union, more transfer of budgetary power to Brussels as well as solidarity mechanisms to help ailing states. Another key issue is how to make the transition and the final result happen in a way that EU citizens are aware of the process and approve of it.

At government level, the process is split between those member states - such as France - who want to see more solidarity before they undertake further structural reforms. On the other side is Germany - largely responsible for the pace of progress - who wants to see countries get their budgets in order before it will commit to solidarity measures.

The other major talking point this week will be recently bailed-out Cyprus. Its bailout package, requiring deep budget cuts as well as tax hikes, will be discussed by eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Tuesday in the European Parliament and a day later by economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn and European Central Bank member Joerg Asmussen.

Under the terms of Cyprus' bank bailout, shareholders, bond holders and uninsured deposit-holders are facing substantial losses, a key demand of Germany. Dijsselbloem has also indicated this will be the template for future bank bailouts.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen will kick off the week by appearing before the parliament's foreign affairs committee to discuss the future of EU defence. In recent weeks, he has been urging member states not to cut their defence budgets, even in times of economic crisis. He points out that lowering defence spending would lessen European states' ability to work along side the US on defence missions and risked undermining Washington's support for the military alliance.

Appearing in front of the committee directly after Rasmussen will be Italian defence chief Mario Mauro. He is to give his thoughts on what Italy expects from the high level EU defence summit planned for December.

On Wednesday the European Commission will unveil 12 new measures to improve the rights of citizens in the EU as well as a directive on improving transparency in bank charges.

Meanwhile Bulgaria will wrap up the week with parliamentary elections. The Sunday (12 May) poll is expected to return the centre-right Gerb to power, despite its resignation from government earlier this spring amid mass protests by Bulgarians over poor living standards.

A recent survey gave Gerb 23.6 percent of the vote and the Socialists at 17.7 percent. Bulgaria is the EU's poorest country and its disaffected citizens have been taking to the streets in anger over corruption, the unemployment rate and high utility bills.

MEPs slam Rehn over economic policy

EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn faced a sustained verbal shellacking on Thursday from MEPs on the left and right.

New Red Sea mission and more Russia sanctions This WEEK

EU foreign affairs ministers launch the bloc's new Red Sea naval mission, plus hold talks on new sanctions against Russia — amid Hungarian objections — on Monday. Plus a home for the EU's new anti-money laundering authority will be picked.

Nato, defence summit, and UNRWA in focus This WEEK

Nato defence ministers will meet this week ahead of the Munich Security Conference. ECB chief Christine Lagarde will address MEPs in the committee on economic affairs and MEPs will hold a debate about the defunding of the UNRWA agency.

EU's 2040 climate target and farmers in focus This WEEK

This week, the EU commission will present a proposal to cut net emissions by 90 percent by 2040, while MEPs discuss the demands of farmers' protests across Europe. Romanian president Klaus Iohannis will also address the EU parliament in Strasbourg.

Aid for Kyiv EU summit and Nato defence in focus This WEEK

EU leaders will gather in Brussels for an extraordinary council on Thursday (1 February) to try to agree on the €50bn four-year aid package to Ukraine, after Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán blocked all compromises in December.

Middle East, Egypt, Nato exercise in focus This WEEK

EU foreign ministers will discuss Gaza and Israeli sanctions on Monday, as well as frozen assets and Russian sanctions. Nato will launch military exercises. Meanwhile, migration talks with Egypt and the future of agriculture are also planned for this week.

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